This past Wednesday, Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced that he will no longer participate in "manels," or speaking panels with only male participants.
Dr. Collins also issued a challenge the rest of his field to do the same, writing "the diversity of bright and talented minds engaged in biomedical research has come a long way – and our public engagements need to catch up." This high-profile announcement brings issues of inclusion to center stage, ideally making these “manels” a thing of the past.
Dr. Collins' decision is supported by recent research measuring women’s success rates in the sciences. A September 2018 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggested that women in PhD programs are more likely to finish their degree when they have female peers.
While he focused on his own field of biomedical research, this public action has been a call to scientists everywhere. In a story on the announcement by the New York Times, other scientists applauded Dr. Collins and vowed to do the same. And Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of global health nonprofit The Wellcome Trust, tweeted that his organization plans to follow Dr. Collin’s pledge as well.
Groups like 500 Women Scientists have been working for years to create more inclusive and supportive environments that empower women in STEM. Started by four female scientists, they provide various resources, including a guide to organizing inclusive science meetings, to help anyone make their own community or institution more inclusive.
As a woman in a male-dominated field (forest ecology), I felt validated seeing this announcement covered extensively after it was made. I hope to see more organizations follow suit, use this pledge as a template, and more publicly support the work and accomplishments of under-represented minorities in their fields.